The Celtics resurgence in the second half of the season has generated a lot of discussion about the team, and what their ceiling is this season, as well as what the future holds.
I maintain that a reasonable expectation for the team is a strong showing in the second round. That doesn’t mean a win in the second round, but instead, just as I said, a strong showing.
Anything above and beyond that has to be considered house money. Can they go beyond the second round? It’s possible, but a lot of things would have to break in their favor to make it happen.
I’ve heard some media folks say that they’re not going “all-in” on this Celtics team until they win the second round. (That was Andy Gresh this morning, and I think I’ve heard Glenn Ordway express similar thoughts) I’m not sure what that means. They’re not going to say this team can go all the way until they beat Miami or Chicago? They’re not going to think this is a good team until they win that second round? Or they’re not worthy of following until that point?
It’s my opinion that you need to throw in behind this team right now, because this is a special group that won’t be around much longer.
There is a lot to like about this team. Enjoy them while you have them.
Much of the Celtics talk has revolved around Avery Bradley and Ray Allen. Bradley has excited fans with his energy, athleticism and defense. Sports radio hosts harp on his ball-handling. Michael Felger, Gresh, Scott Zolak and Ordway have all been down on the kid for his ball-handling. Most of those same people also believe that Ray Allen needs to be back in the starting lineup.
Is it too much of a stretch to say that having Bradley in the starting lineup is the perfect spot for him because Rondo is on the court with him, and he doesn’t have to worry at all about handing the ball? He can just concentrate on his defense, and cutting without the ball on offense.
If you put Bradley back on the bench, he’s going to play less with Rondo, and when he’s out there with Keyon Dooling, he’s going to have to bring the ball up more. Having Dooling and Allen as your bench backcourt gives you two savvy veterans and the ball handling isn’t much of an issue. Neither has a great handle, but both are adequate.
I say keep Bradley right where he is.
A mild surprise for me as of late has been Sasha Pavlovic. I was not impressed with him at all last year, and scratched my head at bringing him back this season. However, since Mickael Pietrus went down, and while Ray Allen was out, he showed what he can bring to a team. He doesn’t make many mistakes, he plays pretty tough defense, and he can knock down the occasional three pointer. He’s a solid guy to have at the end of the bench, because he can come in during an emergency and not hurt you.I actually could say much of the same about Pietrus. I wasn’t a fan of his in his days with Golden State and Orlando but have come to appreciate what he brings to a team now that he is here.
When the current Celtics team meets its end in the postseason it will be because of their frontcourt. While Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass have both provided more production that you could’ve hoped for, the depth falls off precipitously after that. Greg Stiemsma has shown that he belongs in the NBA, but he’s still very raw. Ryan Hollins can get out and run, and when Rondo is on the court with him, good things can happen. He doesn’t rebound though. I have hopes for JaJuan Johnson as a player, but he’s too thin and not ready right now to be a contributor.
Because of that lack of depth in the frontcourt, Doc Rivers has employed a small lineup at times which sees Paul Pierce playing power forward. Against a team like Miami, that lineup could be effective and cause problems when you’ve also got Rondo, Bradley, Allen and KG on the floor. Against a team like Chicago, which has multiple bigs, it would not be so effective.
However the season ends, the more this year has gone on, the more convinced I am that KG comes back next year. (Sorry Ordway. I know you guaranteed he won’t be back here next year.) I’m also leaning more and more towards Allen not coming back. Depending on the money that KG wants, the Celtics could add a nice piece or two this offseason and be a better team next season.
It wouldn’t be the most popular move, but I can see Danny Ainge making a run at restricted free agent Roy Hibbert in the offseason. He gives that big body next to KG and even with his obvious limitations, he is one of the better centers in the NBA right now. I think he’d be even better playing with the likes of Garnett and Rondo. Bring back Bass and Jeff Green, and sign a decent shooting guard, and you’ve got a pretty good team next year:
PG Rondo, Open, Moore
SG Bradley, Open, Pietrus
SF Pierce, Green, Open
PF Garnett, Bass, Johnson
C Hibbert, Stiemsma, Hollins
I’d still be looking for a rebounding forward/center type (Reggie Evans? I’d also consider Chris Wilcox again.) But that’s a roster that can compete with almost anyone. Let’s not also forget that there are likely two first round picks and two second round picks (The Celtics have Milwaukee’s second round pick from the Dooling trade.) in what is said to be a deep draft to add into this mix.
The Celtics will have cap space in which not only to sign players, but also to make trades with, as well as those four draft picks with which to work this offseason.
Danny Ainge took a whole lot of criticism from the sports radio/TV people after he didn’t make a move at the trading deadline, and did not deal away his stars for draft picks or younger players. I think in short-term, he has been proven correct for standing pat, and I think he will also be proven correct in the long-term.
I’m not convinced that we’re seeing the last days of the Celtics as a contender. We know Danny Ainge isn’t afraid to make bold moves. With a couple of pieces, I can see next year’s Celtics being a better team than this year.
After so many down years with the Celtics, I’m not eager to drop all the way to the bottom and start over. The good news is, I don’t think they have to.